The article discusses the role of the nation state in stimulating lead markets for green innovations. It is often feared that the nation state loses its capacity for action because of economic and political globalization. This article rejects this hypothesis. It argues that empirical research on actual environmental policies reveals that it is most often nation states that pioneer new approaches, push for advances in environmental policy, and serve as regional starting points for new ‘green’ technologies. The innovation and diffusion of environmental technologies and their support through national environmental policies bear the potential of a far-reaching ecological modernization.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Author notes

We wish to thank the guest editors and the anonymous reviewers of Global Environmental Politics for valuable comments and suggestions. The article is partially based on the findings of an ongoing research project “Policy framework for the development of international markets for innovations of a sustainable economy—from pilot markets to lead markets (LEAD),” funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (grant number 07RIW1A). In this project, about 20 cases of lead markets for environmental technologies are analyzed. The technologies include energy technologies such as photovoltaic, wind energy, fuel cells for stationary energy generation etc., chemicals such as substitutes for CFCs, cadmium, phosphate in detergents, technologies applied in cars e.g., energy efficient motors, catalytic converters for exhaust gas, and fuel cells for mobile applications. The studied technologies are both historical cases of innovation and diffusion as well as ongoing processes.